Angel investors boost UK bioscience

New bioscience companies are set to benefit from greater access to angel backing thanks to an initiative to bring fresh investors into life sciences.

Angels in MedCity, launched by MedCity, London Business Angels and Angels4LifeSciences, will focus on drug therapies, digital health and medical device technologies, introducing new and experienced potential investors to life sciences experts.

Though UK angels invest two-to-three times more than venture capitalists in early-stage companies, with £1.07 billion invested in 2012 under the HMRC Enterprise Investment Scheme alone, only a tiny proportion of this is invested in healthcare and life science at present.

One reason for this is poor investor understanding of the early-stage life sciences sector, which the scheme aims to address.

Anthony Clarke, managing director of London Business Angels, stressed that, though the development process for therapies and other healthcare technologies could seem long and complex, it also provided opportunities “to make a significant return while supporting ground-breaking new technologies that have the potential to change lives”, and at the same time save costs to the NHS and others.

Executive chair of MedCity Dr Eliot Forster explained that the tailor-made programme would also bring wider benefits to the London and the South East region, making it more competitive with similar hubs in the US: “We have world-leading research and infrastructure, but we don’t have the kind of liquidity you find in Boston or San Francisco, which is what you need to create and grow a critical mass of exciting young companies. Angels in MedCity is a key part of our drive to position London as a leading centre for life sciences investment, which will not only support home-grown innovation but attract entrepreneurs from around the world to set up business here.”

The one-year pilot programme will create a community of investors supported by free investor workshops featuring case studies and tips from experienced investors in the field, which will explain how to identify and structure a good deal in the life sciences sector, plus give advice on tax and legal issues. It will also provide regular entrepreneur pitching events.

Beneficiary of angel funding, personal organ replacement company Videregen, welcomed the announcement of the new network. The company, which was set up in 2011, received an initial £1.25 million through London Business Angel investors, other private investors and SPARK Impact to develop its stem cell based trachea and bowel replacements and undertake clinical trials, which are due to begin in the second half of 2015.

Angels in MedCity was established by London Business Angels and is co-funded by MedCity and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of its Capital Accelerator Programme.

MedCity was set up by the Mayor of London in April 2014 with the capital’s three Academic Health Science Centres: Imperial College Academic Health Centre, King’s Health Partners and UCL Partners.

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